Due in part to the recent explosion of John Green novels and their respective film adaptations, quirky young adult films for the mainstream have been on the rise in recent years. One could argue that perhaps a solid character study may be easier to pull of when the characters themselves are of a younger age. Regardless, it comes as no real surprise that directors of the independent persuasion might see an advantage to taking part in this trend.
Kerem Sanga’s The Young Kieslowski is no real exception. The film chronicles two college students and each of their vastly different actions and coping mechanisms while in the midst of an accidental pregnancy. It is certainly not a plot that breaks any real new ground, and actually finds itself a little bit on the blander side of the young adult trend at its brief description. However, through clever choices and resoundingly comical and original characters, The Young Kieslowski quickly becomes something special- infinitely greater than its plot description may imply.
“What do you think is gonna happen to us?”
Endlessly quirky and incredibly relevant, the film’s screenplay reads somewhere between a satirical news article and an Urban Outfitters coffee table book. Sanga’s hilarious and mostly unpretentious two lead characters (played by Ryan Malgarini and Haley Lu Richardson) drive the seemingly predictable plot forward with an incredibly satisfying spontaneity. What should be an audience member’s disinterest in such a dime-a-dozen subject matter is instead an incredibly real will for both characters to find happiness in the situation, whether or not in each other.
Unlike Kerem Sanga’s previous film, the $4,000 black and white thriller Trigger Finger, The Young Kieslowski is riding on a significantly higher budget with resoundingly apparent results. On display here is not only a full color film, but one that is meticulously crafted and beautifully arranged. At times Sanga’s direction gets a little bit to his head, such as the very awkward black and white monologue that breaks the tension of a dinner table conversation towards the middle of the film. On a more technical level, one of the film’s early shots is a prolonged walking shot in which the microphone sits stationary while the characters on the other hand draw forward, resulting in a small but very real removal from the film’s atmosphere. While Sanga still has a little further to go in the way of art direction and cinematography, he has struck an incredible improvement with this film.
In addition to the film’s two lead teenagers in trouble, The Young Kieslowski is supported by the wonderful talents of Joshua Malina and Melora Walters, the latter having quite the track record. These two supporting actors provide particularly heartbreaking performances as parents trying to be as supportive as possible in the midst of their own dealings with terminal lung cancer. This subplot rarely forced, and in fact does very well to provide the film with a slightly darker tone that sets it apart from other young adult films.
It is very easy to call The Young Kieslowski “just another young adult movie” or even “just another accidental pregnancy comedy”, and there would certainly be truth to those statements. This being said, in the grand scheme of young adult cinema, there are hardly many films anywhere near as genuine in their message and unpretentious in their dialogue.
Runtime: 1 hr 34 min